Saturday, March 22, 2008

Attorney for the Poor

I don't think I've written enough about how much I admire my husband John for his work in Haiti and on behalf of Haitians. He gives his all in so many ways. The clinics and hospitals where he works in Haiti are jam packed with patients, many of whom are very sick. John loves being able to give these babies and children the medicines they need, medicines that often save their lives. But it is hard not to have all the tools and medicines to appropriately treat every patient he sees. And even when children are cured, knowing that they return to the same poverty-stricken environment that may have given rise to their illness is a psychological burden.

Bringing children to the States for surgery is an endeavor requiring a Sisyphusian-amount of effort. Children with heart problems have to be identified and sent for an echocardiogram. The parents must keep in touch with us and obtain a passport for their child. Up north, John asks hospitals and doctors if they would be willing to accept a Haitian patient for free or at a greatly reduced cost. He hears no much more often than yes. When a hospital does accept a child, a raft of paperwork must be completed and sent to Haiti so that the U.S. consulate will grant a visa for the child. Then the Haitian state has to give their permission for the child to leave without a parent. . . more paperwork. Airplane tickets and host families must be arranged for. When the child arrives, usually with John accompanying him, all kinds of medical, language, and other details need to be taken care of until the child returns to Haiti. John always follows up with the children on later trips to ensure their recovery is going well.

I guess the thing I find the most admirable about all that John does is that he doesn't have to do it. The heartbreaking reality is that no one--or very few people--care about these children and the awful circumstances of their lives. If enough people cared, the world would change. There is no political, social, or economic pressure to get these children care; in fact, I would say that there is pressure not to get them care. It would be so easy to forget these kids when the Haiti trip is over. But John doesn't.

So I am glad when John receives recognition for his hard work. It is nice to have it appreciated and it encourages us to keep on. In the next post, I'll reprint a commendation John and Haitian Hearts recently received from the Haitian consulate in Chicago.

"The physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and the social problems should largely be solved by them." Rudolf Virchow

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